Düsseldorf, Germany — The key message from the European Commission to the plastics industry at the opening day of K 2019 was around recycling — using more recycled plastic in products and doing more to make plastics a bigger part of the circular economy.
Joanna Drake, a deputy director in the EC's Environment Directorate, urged the industry to stay focused on its commitments made earlier this year to dramatically increase use of recycled plastic in products, from an estimated 2.5 million to 4 million metric tons now to 10 million tonnes by 2025.
In a keynote speech during a conference at the PlasticsEurope booth in Hall 6, Drake said the EC and European governments applaud the commitments the industry has made.
But she also outlined government steps that could be coming, including regulations to boost public confidence in the performance of recycled plastic so it equals that of virgin materials.
Those moves could also include regulations to encourage more innovation in packaging design, more extended producer responsibility and reducing exports of some plastic waste.
She said the commission recognizes the role of plastics for society and that industry should be proud of its innovation, even as governments push for more controls on plastic pollution and more circular use of materials.
"We're not talking about plastic bashing here," Drake told the crowd. "We're talking about controlling pollution and making sure that what we can do most with plastic, we continue to do and put it back in the economy."
She highlighted a voluntary EC-led initiative with the industry, the Circular Plastics Alliance, that last month saw more than 100 organizations, governments and companies make public commitments toward reaching 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic use by 2025.
"This is a huge target which I only see growing," she said.
While suppliers of recycled plastic have pledged more than 10 million tonnes, users or buyers of the material have only made pledges of about 6.4 million tonnes, she said.
Currently, she noted that only about 6 percent of all plastic used in products in the European Union is recycled plastic.